When I first visited Phi Phi Don it was like being in a dream. Palm trees, endless white beaches, turquoise shores and the smell of coconuts clung in the air. However, when I truly opened my eyes and took it all in I started to see some of the scars. Scars left by one of the biggest natural disasters of all time – The 2004 Tsunami. I noticed that a lot of those palm trees were just headless stubs sticking out of the ground, surrounded by small piles of rubble where years later the evidence hadn’t quite been disposed of. It just made me see how open and unguarded the Island was to the deep blue ocean. Yet when you get to know the locals you wouldn’t have thought they had lived through such a terrifying ordeal. Like the rest of this stunning country, its Thai people are nothing less than caring, happy and friendly, always wanting to help you.
Phi Phi Don is a dog-bone shaped, limestone Island with the majority of the town settled on a small strip of land no more than a few 100 yards in width. Either side mountainous hills tower over the island town offering a great view point and photo opportunity!
We had booked our accommodation in advance on this occasion and were happy to see that the small amount of Baht we had paid got us one of the top hotels on the Island, Hotel Phi Phi. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little happy to find out that our hotel was also the ‘high point’ on the island and safe place for any future Tsunamis, should the siren go off! Hotel Phi Phi had good, clean rooms and the beauty of this island was that you pretty much had a sea view wherever you stayed. However there is much more choice today when it comes to accommodation, some stunning little beach huts that are very reasonably priced or hostels for those seeking a true backpacking experience. Check here for some great options from Lonely Planet!
It’s safe to assume that there is a lot to do when on this Island. If you just like to relax on the beach then you won’t be disappointed. On one side of the Island you have the harbour with typical Thai boats dotted across the shore, on the other side is the real dream, a stunning long curved bay with plenty of space to lay down your towel. Why not grab a fresh BBQ’d corn on the cob for only 35p? It does take a while to get out of your depth but the water is like a warm bath and it’s a perfect sunbathing spot.
My personal recommendation would be to take a short boat trip to Phi Phi Leh 20 minutes away where you can spend a day snorkelling through the famous waters from the movie ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Maya Bay was incredible, and it was awe-inspiring to be on the set of this legendary movie. You almost feel like DiCaprio’s French lover Virginie Ledoyen swimming under the starry skies, or if you’re a guy DiCaprio himself fishing with spears!
For another great adventure hire a double kayak from the bay, it’s pretty much up to you where you take it, I would suggest sticking to the left side of the bay and you’ll find an inlet where you can pull up on a small private beach. We found it was home to lots of little monkeys playing on the beach and eating bananas…
On the way to Phi Phi Don we were picked up from our accommodation in Phuket early and taken by minibus to the Harbour, only 40 minutes away. It would seem that since the Tsunami travel agents have pulled together to survive and have been chartering boats together to save money so we met lots of other travellers and holiday-makers going to different places. A two hour ride took us to a smaller boat where we were told to ‘hop over’, naturally we were a little dubious, but you can’t really argue, you just hope you are being taken to the right place!
Once walking the plank between these two wobbly boats we headed, hopefully, in the right direction. We were given time to snorkel in some of the clearest waters I have ever seen, swimming amongst the coral and sea life for a good hour, before finally arriving harbour-side on Phi Phi Don. When booking these boat transfers you often find that you are part of a day trip, with some people there for a whole day tour before returning to the mainland. With that in mind we arrived on Phi Phi Don to a full Thai seafood lunch included in the cost, also during the boat trip itself there was tea and coffee breaks with endless watermelon and croissants.
If you have a little extra time I would urge you to head over to Krabi on the mainland, it’s got some of the most beautiful secluded beaches. This part of Thailand is getting more and more ‘touristy’ every day, so the sooner you can visit the better, try and immerse yourself into local’s way of life rather than stick out like burnt British sore thumb! See something a little different, try the orchid gardens in Krabi or grab a local guide and explore the rainforest, why not jump off a waterfall? Or rock climb in Railay? The world is your oyster!